Giving Liverpool the thumbs-up: but how will Rodgers set his team up against United
Liverpool travel to arch-rivals Manchester United on Wednesday for a much-anticipated Capital One Cup third-round clash, looking to record their second win over the Red Devils in less than a month. It will be intriguing to see just what side manager Brendan Rodgers selects at Old Trafford.
The Reds, who saw their unbeaten start to the Premier League season brought to a surprising end by Southampton at Anfield on Saturday afternoon, have picked up a number of untimely injuries of late. As a result, the Northern Irishman may have to adjust his thinking when it comes to selecting his starting XI. Rodgers may also want to use this fixture to give some previously unused squad players a run-out against the Premier League champions.
However, this is a clash that no Liverpool boss ever wants to lose. Therefore, Rodgers may be tempted to pick the strongest lineup available to him at the “Theatre of Dreams” in order to get the Merseysiders back to winning ways as soon as possible.
This is how we expect Liverpool to line up against United on Wednesday night—in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
The in-form Belgium international is sure to be in for a busy evening at Old Trafford on Wednesday.
However, the 25-year-old has ably demonstrated in his short career with the Reds that he is not an easy man to get past at the best of times.
Rodgers values the Ivorian’s big-match experience and calmness at the back, which is why he was so quick to reinstall Toure to the starting lineup against the Saints, even in an unfamiliar right-back role.
Toure’s lack of attacking instincts may not prove so problematic at Old Trafford as they did at home to Southampton. As such, the 32-year-old is certain to be utilised once more as a makeshift right-back against United.
The imposing Frenchman has made an up-and-down start to his Reds career, but Rodgers appears intent on throwing the defender in at the deep end and seeing if he can swim—and there are no deeper waters than a trip to United.
After a generally unsuccessful experiment at left-back against the Saints, we are now likely to see the recent £19 million signing in his more preferred position of centre-back on Wednesday night, when his pace and reading of the game are sure to be further tested
With Rodgers sensibly wanting his centre-back pairing to be a left and right-footed combination, the Slovakia international should get the nod at the expense of Daniel Agger—and with good reason, too.
Skrtel made an impressive return to the lineup following Toure’s injury against Notts County in the previous round of this competition.
There were more than a few raised eyebrows around Anfield when the teams were announced on Saturday and the Spaniard was named only as a substitute—an error that Rodgers acknowledged by introducing the marauding left-back into proceedings just 12 minutes after half-time.
You can be sure that the same mistake will not be made against the Red Devils.
The Welshman is expected to have recovered from the hamstring injury he sustained against Notts County in the previous round in time for the trip to Old Trafford, which will be of huge relief to Rodgers, who will be able to now utilise the 23-year-old as part of a double protective screen in front of the back four.
This change of personnel in the defensive midfield role will also have the knock-on effect of allowing the Reds to push skipper Steven Gerrard further forward and closer to the opposition goal, where he can be far more dangerous for his side.
It is sure to be a busy night for the blond-haired Brazilian on Wednesday as he rushes to put out fires at the base of midfield, keeping an eye on those attacking players who appear between the lines of United’s midfield and attack, while also breaking up the home side’s forward forays with his usual calm authority.
A chance for the skipper to reprise the attacking role he made so successful in partnership with Fernando Torres under former manager Rafa Benitez, particularly in the Reds’ never-to-be-forgotten 4-1 win at Old Trafford in 2009, when the England international ran amok in the “hole” behind the now Chelsea front man.
Expect Rodgers to give the flying wide man a rare start this season at United in place of the previously ineffectual Iago Aspas, with the 18-year-old’s extra pace likely to prove far more dangerous on the counterattack against United as the visitors play primarily on the break on Wednesday.
The England international, who scored the winner the last time these two old foes met in the Premier League at Anfield at the start of this month, still looks to be confidence personified in front of goal—despite Liverpool having collected just one point from their last two league outings.
It will be absolutely fascinating to see just how the striker reacts to Suarez’s return and how successfully the two attackers manage to combine over the coming weeks, starting at Old Trafford on Wednesday.
What a massive relief for Rodgers to finally be able to call upon the services of the mercurial but world-class Uruguay international after the conclusion of his 10-game ban for biting, especially following the recent injury to fellow South American playmaker Philippe Coutinho.
In the Brazilian’s injury-enforced absence, expect Suarez to simply slip into his role wide on the left of an attacking front three, where the 26-year-old will be asked to create mischief by running at United’s right back and linking up with lone striker Daniel Sturridge.
GK: Brad Jones
RB/CB: Andre Wisdom
CB/LB: Daniel Agger
RB/CB: Martin Kelly
CM: Jordan Henderson
LM: Luis Alberto
ST: Iago Aspas